Ayatollah Qassim Demands Release of Bahrain’s Political Prisoners amid Coronavirus Outbreak
By Staff, Agencies
Bahrain's top Shia cleric Ayatollah Sheikh Isa Qassim demanded the immediate and unconditional release of political dissidents currently being held in the Manama regime’s prisons in the wake of the novel coronavirus pandemic, stressing that failure to take the measure will have dire consequences.
“Even if the release of political prisoners and prisoners of conscience in Bahrain, whose number stands in thousands, might not be recognized as a religious, constitutional, national and human right and would have no priority among the policies of ruling authorities, there is inevitable truth that COVID-19 virus could hit prisons and lead to consequences much more catastrophic that what the world has been witnessing,” Bahrain Mirror news website quoted Sheikh Qassim as saying in a statement.
He added, “Because of the high number of [coronavirus] patients and victims, security calculations cannot remain as perceived by local and foreign institutions in normal circumstances.”
He also stressed the need for the freedom of political prisoners, saying, “Sitting idle and waiting for COVID-19 to strike prisons by surprise would plunge the country into chaos.”
“Do not let coronavirus rip the homeland apart, and push it into unprecedented insecurity and hiatus. Neither reason nor suppression will be able to manage the situation once public rage over the spread of the virus boils over,” Sheikh Qassim pointed out.
Meanwhile, a group of political prisoners at the notorious Jaw Prison, south of Manama, have expressed their support for Sheikh Qassim’s statement, and called on the international community and human rights organizations to pay attention to their condition.
Thousands of anti-regime protesters have held demonstrations in Bahrain on an almost daily basis ever since a popular uprising began in the country in mid-February 2011.
They are demanding that the Al Khalifah regime relinquish power and allow a just system representing all Bahrainis to be established. Manama has gone to great lengths to clamp down on any sign of dissent. On March 14, 2011, troops from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates were deployed to assist Bahrain in its crackdown.
On March 5, 2017, Bahrain’s parliament approved the trial of civilians at military tribunals in a measure blasted by human rights campaigners as being tantamount to imposition of an undeclared martial law countrywide. The constitutional amendment was ratified by King Hamad on April 3 that year.